Living Abroad, A Synopsis on Moving On

Living abroad means

your dear dear friends

are on the next plane

back to their own, real home,

the place they’ll go back to school

or eat those foods they’ve had such a

hankering for.

 

It was never going to be

some forever-stay;

there are bigger plans

than the ones

I foresee.

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They will leave you a chair

or a small lamp stand

a cup for your kids

and some cute hairbands

and then

 

gone

to be computer friends

not in a cafe

not to help you go shopping

not to tuck you back into the folds of dirt

here in your still-new garden

called

Another Country.

 

And everyone is fine with the leaving

because it is routine.

It is called “expat”

and “next season”

and “roll with the tide, baby”.

 

And then

it is just you

with your family

and it always becomes fine

but when you watch shows

or plan a birthday party

or wanna make some tortillas and queso

a real margarita,

it is lonely

 

and it is life

on an island

where so many are expats

and the nationals, the everyday people locals

I have met,

connected with on balcony parties,

on high towers, landmarks

over tea and cake,

every other day in cafes and the library—-

well, with them I’m still playing catch-up.

It is not their fault we aren’t connecting.

 

So goodbye dear friends, the special, the beloved trading secrets and tricks

the special, the beloved trading secrets and tricks,

prayers and swear words kind.

Bye in less than a month.

 

Goodbye to the long ago

thinking

that roots

are not so easily

repotted

and repositioned

and just plain picked.

 

People move and here, it’s often.

 

Hello, maybe to

the white cereal bowls or random candles

the travel shampoos

the “thank you” on teal cardstock

they leave behind.

 

We should just call ourselves

Casa B&B

and then I can remember to expect

a checkout time.

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For Bidemi and Mom

The weeks of cherries first came when we checked out Cherries and Cherry Pits from our small English section of our local library in our pocket of Tokyo. We thought we’d explored every nook before, but not this one, I guess. Something in the air changed; the season of the cherry, or sakurenbo, began and suddenly, they were everywhere. Lamberts, Yamagata cherries, cherries looking French, splashed with yellows and tangerine, cherries labeled “America” on cardboard signs.

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How can I possibly give birth in a country when I can’t even communicate basic needs and I pray no one has a heart attack near me so I won’t have to be counted on to call for help, yet here I am at the neighborhood market, there I go on errands, checking out Cherries and Cherry Pits by that same author as My Mother’s Chair with the Greek blue tiles and burnt down house. That parade of love as neighbors and family bring new things–a braided rug, a lamp, curtains.

I immediately go to my own mother, thinking of her fortitude, her tough, rugged bits. Her own jars to buy something we needed and her resolution to always have books on hand. Our own migration from the Sonoran to the subtropics, in a Volvo and an umbrella stroller.

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She  simply unloaded and set us in our new climate– transplants, might as well have been aliens. One step on the sidewalk and lizards and frogs bounded. No more jackrabbits or gila monsters, but mosquitoes and gators. We moved through air so thick with humidity, mangroves grew around us. She just inhaled, gulped down water from gallon jugs, readied our backpacks, and cried our need, o that maternal lion, to get us library cards–talk about basic needs, right? She didn’t count on the system being so rigid. Wait for the water bill? Why, that’d take thirty days!  We’d only just started our lives here! The newness combined with the librarian’s tired empathy, combined with having to go back out in that heat, without cards, without much sleep for mom, without Ramona Quimby–it was all too much. How can you say no to books and kids?! She let all that water back out, in the form of tears. Big shaking puddles the librarian didn’t know what to do with. She conceded and two little girls had books to read that night.

And here I am, with my own two kids in my own fairly new land & I can see we need books. A whole lotta books. I cannot read many of my member cards to know which store handed it to me or which is the dermatologist and which card goes to the big hospital, but I know my library card. I can’t communicate much, but I do get my kids books. There’s the few Silverstein books, Snowy Day, Bedtime for Francis, and good ol’ Curious George. There are the strange books, the bilingual books, the Eric Carle collection. And there’s Vera B. Williams’ cherries.
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We just love saying Bidemi’s name from Cherries and Cherry Pits. It is the only Nigerian name my daughter knows, a different way to move her mouth from her mostly Japanese repertoire. It is so much a smily name. You couldn’t be mad at a daughter named Bidemi. I feel that tender way towards my girl, too, so when I discovered she’d left our library copy of the Bidemi book outside, some weeks into rainy season (or tsuyu here), I couldn’t really rant. It had been my suggestion to read out on the balcony. She’d left our book on the bench during a fierce and rogue rain, the black clouds moving, covering each molecule of sky and cat-calling to electrons, “zip zam”.

Our book was now wet  (second book drenched. The first, Lon Po Po, Chinese version of Cinderella, was a victim of our dog’s full bladder and spot-on aim). I had to apologize. They’re gonna think we’re the family who pees on stuff.

To top it off, that book was already two, maybe three weeks old. We just let time go by–it was cherry season, too. Jubilant, fleshy, lip-staining cherry season. We needed Bidemi and her stories of people and how they connected, held by those cherry stems. The eating, the spitting, the planting. The grandness of growing.

Looking back, it felt like inventory. What are the seeds? What am I devouring, delighting in, flinging out of my mouth? All these friends had left. So much had changed. I was making mental lists of friends who’d split and what remained?

I have kids. I have library books, rain, fewer meltdowns with train attendants and craft-store workers. I can tuck-in futon sheets, can recognize tempura-ed  ginger shoots through grease and batter, can even find some friends.

We’re eating the cherries and spitting out the pits, or “pips” as K says. Eating the cherries and spitting out the pits. Devouring the good, flicking out the yuck, the overripe, rotten and bad.

Sitting with ruby-stained mouths and a bowl of pits, thinking of Bidemi, thinking of Mom, of being a mom, and what trees we’d like to plant.

**

Tell me, reader, what made your new home feel less new? Was it the familiarity of a certain food? A new bedspread, library card, or that first care package?

When were you hit with a pang of “this is home” while lining abroad?

Here from more women who became moms aboard–I am one  of 26 women in 25 countries in the fabulous Knocked Up Abroad Again. We need your support on Kickstarter to make this important collection!